Banff Park Museum National Historic Site: A Testament to History and Changing Attitudes Toward Wildlife
Looking for things to do in Banff with the whole family? You can’t go wrong with The Banff Park Museum National Historic Site of Canada. You can promise the kids that they will get to see plenty of wildlife, up close — and learn a lot about history, biology, and ecology of Banff, Alberta, and the Canadian Rockies.
Banff Park Museum is not only a museum of the Canadian Rockies, though, but a testament to the scientific methods and approaches of the naturalists and wildlife biologists of the 19th and early 20th century – not to mention taxidermy.
The collection of wildlife specimens at the museum began in 1895 with the Geographical Survey of Canada’s presentation of more than 1,300 samples of mammals, birds, wood, plants and minerals – said to be a nearly complete representation of the birds and flowering plants found within Banff National Park, in addition to the other animals. The collection grew until 1932; today Banff National Park Museum houses more than 5,000 specimens characteristic of early museum practices.
Some of the exhibits themselves are of specific historical interest; the museum is the final resting place for the infamous Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek. More than of just historical interest, the Banff Park Museum also illustrates how our attitudes towards wildlife have changed over the years. The naturalists that helped collect the museum’s specimens might be surprised to learn how behavior modification – rather than the shotgun — is being used to help people and bears coexist in peace.
The museum building itself is of historic interest, particularly for architecture buffs, and is consequently a National Historic Site. This log structure was built in 1903 specifically for the park, and is the largest and most elaborate example of the early phase of park design (as far as man-made structures), utilizing decorative cross-log construction.
The museum is easy to find in the center of the town on the west side of Banff Avenue, backing onto Central Park just before you reach the bridge across the Bow River. To enter the museum you will be asked to pay a small fee for entrance; the fees go to helping maintain the museum.
Banff National Park and Historic Site is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from mid-May to late September; the rest of the time it is open in the afternoons from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed December 25th.